Eric J. Smalls Memorial Tournament reaches 8th year

Published: Jun. 4, 2023 at 12:15 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -Over the last couple of years in the CSRA, AAU teams descend upon the two-state to play basketball in honor of Eric J. Smalls.

For Eric’s mother, Frankie Simon, this weekend is always one she holds close to her heart, “When Eric passed, we retired Eric’s jersey and uniform. So he was number zero on the team that year.”

Simon: “Eric was a ball of fire, Eric was very energetic, nine year old who fell in love with the game of basketball.” Eric died in a car accident in 2015, he was 9 years old.

Now Simon, and his coach, Corey Warren are keeping his legacy alive. “I can feel, you know, his spirit and his energy, him jumping on the court still running, still shooting, trying to shoot a three,” said Simon.

Eric is still playing, just as the sixth man on the 45 teams playing at the tournament that bears his name. Warren: “This is one of the ways that we could have made sure that he lives on, living through basketball each and every year, reminding people who he is.”

Eric would have been a junior this year at Westside, alongside his former teammates. Westside won their second straight title this season, and they didn’t do it alone.

Simon: “The coach [Jerry Hunter] said that there was a jersey, a foul number jersey, number six, that he just found amongst his inventory of uniforms. And that came to his vision that that was Eric. Always before every game, they prayed that they would do well, and that Eric would give them the strength that they need to get through the games,” it paid off. “It let us know that he is life after death, because now he’s a state championship recipient, even in his death.”

Eric got his ring, his mother, was finally able to take a breath that she didn’t know she was holding in. After she was presented Eric’s Westside jersey, Simon said, “June 1 was the first time I felt alive and a little bit more joy than I had felt since 2015.”

The Eric J. Smalls Memorial Tournament has gifted thousands in scholarships to local athletes over the years.